Chemical in Plastic Products Linked to Health Issues


When you think about eating and drinking, plastic is not usually the first thing that comes to mind; however, it's something that is a common theme throughout food and beverage.

You drink water, soda, juice and milk from plastic containers, while your leftovers are stored in Rubber Maid boxes. Plastic seems like a valuable resource that is environment-friendly, allows for multiple reuses and is recyclable, but recent studies may show that plastic is not as safe as we once thought.

On September 16, research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association compared the health of 1,455 men and women based on the concentration levels of the chemical, bisphenol A or BPA, in their urine.

The Washington Post reported that the study conducted by British and American scientists concluded that people with high level of BPA had higher rates of heart disease, diabetes and liver abnormalities.

The chemical is commonly used in everyday plastic containers and packaging used for holding food and beverages. Although the results have been labeled as preliminary, the Food and Drug Administration held a public hearing to discuss continuing to use the chemical in containers.

The Preliminary Round of Tests

In the study, the subjects were divided into four groups based on the level of BPA concentrated in their urine. The researchers found that those in the quartile with the highest concentration of BPA were three times more likely to have cardiovascular disease and 2.4 times more likely to have diabetes than those in the lowest quartile, reported The Washington Post. There also appeared to be a correlation with high levels of BPA and abnormal concentrations of three liver enzymes.

However, scientists involved in the research are calling for more studies before they can prove that BPA causes health issues. While this is the first large study of the effects of BPA in humans, there have been more than 100 studies that link BPA exposure with health effect in animals.

How does the FDA plan to respond?

The FDA is in charge of regulating the use of the chemical in plastic food containers, bottles, tableware and plastic linings in food cans. Since the release of the study, the agency is reviewing its policy on the use of BPA, but for now the FDA maintains its position that BPA is safe for packaging.

According to The Washington Post, the FDA is basing its opinion on two studies that were funded by the chemical industry; however, the agency's opinion is under review.

Senator Charles E. Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, has opened an investigation on the way the FDA has regulated the chemical. This is on top of the investigation led by Representative John D. Dingell on whether chemical manufacturers have influenced the FDA's stance on BPA.

Although the director of the FDA's Office of Food Additive Safety, Laura Tarantino, told The Washington Post that the agency has no reason to doubt the safety of BPA, they have hired six outside scientists to review the new study and make recommendations to the agency.

Final decisions on the chemical are expected to be made next month.

The FDA's position on BPA currently counters the National Toxicology Program's belief that there is concern that BPA may cause developmental problems in the brains and hormonal system of children.

Recommendations to Reduce your Exposure to BPA

The National Toxicology Program of the Department of Health and Human Services suggested some tips on reducing your exposure to BPA.

First, do not microwave polycarbonate plastic food containers. The polycarbonate may break down in high temperatures and with continual use, releasing BPA.

Second, try not to use as many canned foods, and especially stay away from acidic foods in cans like tomatoes because the acidity can accelerate the leaking of BPA from the lining.

Third, use glass, porcelain or stainless-steel containers, especially when storing hot food or liquids.

Fourth, buy baby bottles that are free of BPA.

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